Photo of Maslow workshop

Portland company makes plywood construction accessible to all

Last year the Portland based architecture firm SERA Architects developed a sleeping pod for the POD Initiative, a project that set the standard for affordable housing options for the Portland houseless community. This year, in conjunction with Quest for Beauty: The Architecture, Landscapes, and Collections of John Yeon, and Portland State University’s Center for Public Interest Design they re-designed the pod using plywood. John Yeon was a pioneer of plywood house construction and plywood was invented here in Portland.

The new plywood design (PlyPAD) integrates the automated precision of CNC or Computer Numerical Control technology to boost affordability and simplify replication. CNC machining is a manufacturing process that involves the use of computers to control machine tools like drills or routers. The machines are very expensive, but thanks to a partnership with Maslow CNC, a local company who created a low-cost, open-source CNC machine, the PlyPAD design can be cut and assembled affordably and easily.

Prompted by the high cost of CNC machines, Maslow CNC founder Bar Smith created his own version while in graduate school. After a successful Kickstarter campaign concluded in November 2016, Maslow started production on a CNC machine that is both affordable and accessible. They achieved a simple design which allows the user to construct their own CNC machine in only six steps. Committed to their goal of accessibility, Maslow has taken on an important role in helping to create real world solutions to houselessness.

The PlyPAD consists of a series of interchangeable modules that can be prefabricated to fit a resident’s desired layout. In concept, the modules are factory assembled and shipped to a site, where they can be quickly connected with bolts and flashing. Working with Maslow, SERA converted their drawings into files that tell the CNC machine to cut precise shapes. Maslow’s main objective in this project is to design and build an open source pod that can be easily replicated. Unlike their other projects, the PlyPAD house is not exclusively a CNC structure, as they will use traditional building tools too. However, the Maslow CNC machine will create the crucial pieces that are essential to making the house buildable by even those with little experience. The PlyPAD’s main pieces are being pre-cut in preparation for the build day. It is difficult work because in order for the house to assemble properly,  the tabs have to line up perfectly.

Join us on August 20th during Miller Family Free Day to see how Maslow CNC is making it easier and more affordable to help find housing solutions in our community.

Maslow founder Bar Smith testing out the stability of section of the PlyPAD. One of the required design features is portability by forklift.